Toyota Motor Corp. (7203) said inventory at U.S. dealers remains at a “normal” level after the company extended a shutdown of most of its plants in Japan following the nation’s worst earthquake and a nuclear power-plant disaster.
Toyota, which halted assembly in Japan after the March 11 quake and canceled overtime at North American factories, will keep all auto and most parts plants closed until March 22, the company said in a statement. It will reopen seven factories in Aichi prefecture today that make replacement parts, said Keisuke Kirimoto, a spokesman in Tokyo for the world’s biggest carmaker.
“There are still ships arriving and some on the water, so we’re fine for 35 to 45 days,” said Mike Sullivan, president of LAcarGUY, a Santa Monica, California-based dealer who operates four Toyota and Lexus stores in the Los Angeles area. “After that, we’ll be spotty.”
The 9.0-magnitude quake that may have killed as many as 10,000 people and triggered fires at a nuclear power plant at risk of leaking radiation has disrupted operations for Toyota and other Japanese manufacturers. As the companies assess damage and aid recovery efforts, U.S., Asian and European makers of electronics and autos dependent on Japanese parts say they’re also awaiting a clearer picture of the disaster’s aftermath.
“U.S. inventory remains at normal levels,” said Steve Curtis, a spokesman for Toyota’s sales unit in Torrance, California, without elaborating. The shutdown in Japan affects about 95,000 units of production, of which 60 percent is for shipment to markets including the U.S., he said.
Toyota fell 3.1 percent to 3,235 yen at 10:09 a.m. in Tokyo trading today. The stock has dropped 11 percent since March 10, the day before the quake. Toyota City, Japan-based Toyota jumped as much as 10 percent yesterday.
While Toyota gets almost 70 percent of the cars and light trucks it sells in the U.S. from factories in North America, it depends on shipments from Japan for most of its luxury Lexus models and all of its Scion small cars and Prius hybrids.
“In terms of the inventory situation, at this time I wouldn’t expect a huge pressure,” said Jessica Caldwell, an analyst for Edmunds.com, an auto-pricing and data company in Santa Monica, California. “If shutdowns extend beyond next week, there could be some problems, but for now the impact looks limited.”
Demand for the Prius has risen as average U.S. gasoline prices climbed 16 percent to $3.55 a gallon this year. Prius sales in February were the highest ever for that month.
“Almost all vehicles that have been affected by the loss in production will have an increase in transaction price,” said Jesse Toprak, an analyst for TrueCar.com, also in Santa Monica. “The vehicles that will have a more significant increase will be hybrids and the more fuel-efficient vehicles.”
Toyota vehicle and parts factories in North America have suspended overtime as a precautionary step to conserve parts, said Mike Goss, a spokesman for the company’s manufacturing unit in Erlanger, Kentucky.
The company’s main port in Tahara, Japan, for shipping models to the U.S. and other overseas markets, was undamaged by the quake and tsunami.
None of Toyota’s factories in the northern Tohoku region hit by the tsunami sustained serious damage, the company said. Toyota has sent 60 employees to Tohoku to assist workers and their families and assess factory damage.
LAcarGUY’s Sullivan said he and his employees in the Los Angeles area are raising “millions of dollars” for relief efforts in Japan.
Nissan Motor Co., the second-largest Japanese automaker, said all of its Americas manufacturing facilities remain operational. The Yokohama, Japan-based company has about a 50- day supply of vehicles in the region or aboard ships en route from Japan, Nissan said in a statement. The company said it doesn’t expect any “near-term” effect on sales.
Nissan and an affiliate plan to reopen one plant tomorrow and another on March 18, the company said. Two Nissan factories will remain closed until March 20, while another will operate partially. No decision has been made on reopening a sixth plant, Nissan said.
Honda Motor Co. said its plants in Japan will remain closed until March 20. The Tokyo-based company’s North American operations continue on normal schedules, Honda said.
Honda and Nissan are each likely losing about 1.7 billion yen for each day their factories in Japan are closed, said Endo.
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